Julio Reyes Copello - bringing Abbey Road Institute to Miami
Meet the founder of Abbey Road Institute MiamiAbbey Road Institute is opening its doors for the first time in the United States, with its new location in Miami. An exciting and historical moment, bringing the legacy of Abbey Road Studios to one of the most important music business hubs in the US and the centre of Latin Music.
We interviewed the founder of Abbey Road Institute Miami, a man with a respected track record and devotion to his art; Julio Reyes Copello, pianist, conductor, film score composer and one of the most sought-after producers in Latin Pop Music.
About Julio Reyes CopelloThe Colombian producer, composer, has been behind the most renowned Latin artists, from the likes of Alejandro Sanz and Marc Anthony to Diego Torres, Nelly Furtado, Kany Garcia, Jennifer Lopez, and many others. Throughout his successful career, Julio has earned nine Grammy and Latin Grammy awards, over 25 nominations including Producer of the Year, 10 ASCAP awards and multiple No. 1 hits in Billboard lists.
Besides producing for top artists, his projects also include composing, arranging and recording the soundtrack for the virtual experience MARS 2030 (NASA, Fusion and N-Vidia), conducting and recording the London Symphony Orchestra twice, writing the soundtrack for American TV series Hawthorne (produced by Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, Sony Pictures), producing and arranging the music for the visit of Pope Francis to Colombia in 2017, composing music scores for several awarded international films, as well as writing his own pieces for piano.
Determined to discover and support new music talent, he founded Art House Records, a record label focused on developing the skills and careers of honest and talented musicians. And with the addition of Abbey Road Institute Miami, his devotion will now expand to educating future producers and sound engineers alike.
Meet Julio Reyes CopelloHis credit list shows the impact Copello has had so-far on (Latin) Pop Music and film scoring, but his primary strength is the ability to transform the complex spectrum of human emotions into melodies and songs. We interviewed him to learn more about his approach on working as a producer and his plans with Abbey Road Institute.
You are a producer, pianist, arranger, coach and composer.
Where and when did it all start?
“I started my career as a classical pianist and graduated as a classical composer at Javeriana University in Bogota. It was at a time when the University introduced a new model of education, which became quite successful and trained many talented musicians in Colombia. I believe that being trained as a performer is the backbone of my approach to music.”
“During my time at the university, I also started teaching, which sparked my passion for education and coaching. It was really great, pioneering and being part of this new generation of musicians. Additionally, I also worked as a composer, writing music for movies and TV, and in 1997 I was awarded a full scholarship from the University in Miami. So, I moved to Miami to obtain a Masters Degree in Media Writing and Production, while working as a teaching assistant. I graduated (with Honors) in 2000.”
That’s when it all started for you in the US?
“Well, actually, I got my first gig in Miami through a professor from the University. While I was in the second year of my Masters, he invited me to work on the orchestration for a project with Tony Bennett, Vanessa Williams, Charlotte Church and Placido Domingo. Which was great, of course, so I ended up doing the orchestration for their album called ‘Christmas in Vienna’, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which came out in 2001.”
Sounds like a great start
“It was! And after I graduated, I thought I was going to work with big names and start a sophisticated classical crossover career. But then, nothing happened!” he says, laughing. “Looking back, it was almost funny. I remember meeting up with a friend, who used to be my student back in Colombia, both of us broke in the US and thinking ‘what the hell are we going to do?’ But he kept pushing me, telling me that he believed in me and that I should write pop music. He told me to listen to Christina Aguilera, which was the time of her hit single ‘Genie in a Bottle’”.
“So, I started listening, analyzing the whole thing and then I wrote a song based on these influences. It turned out to be a great song, which I sent to a producer here in Miami. He listened to the song and said, “I want you on my team.” So, I signed a contract, without reading it, which was great, because I also had a family to feed.”
A dive into the unexpected?
“Yes, but it felt good. People were very generous to me, and I started meeting all these artists, often introduced as the ‘doctor’ because I always seem to have the right recipe." he explains with a smile. "I also believe we made a perfect blend. The producer I worked with knew everything about popular music, and I had this academic training in music, structuring the music we wrote, doing the architectural side of music. For me, it was great to share this with someone like him. Because it sort of ‘cleaned’ the academy out of me, resulting in a super-strong connection with my intuition. It has been the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It put me back into the very intuitive and emotional approach to music.”
“During that time, we wrote songs for Jennifer Lopez, Rick Martin, Chayanne, basically all the Latin stars in music, where one after the other wanted one of our songs or productions. It was an amazing six years, after which I decided to start working independently. Then Marc Anthony contacted me, asking me to produce his next album. From that point, things started working out very well. Working with artists like Nelly Furtado and producing albums for artists in France, Germany, the UK, Spain and Latin America. I haven’t stopped writing and producing ever since.”
From an academically trained classical composer to pop music producer. An exciting turn of events?
“Totally. It really gave me a great perspective of what is useful from the traditional academic system, but also what is not. I know there are a lot of rational approaches that could kill the artistry of a potential great composer or artist. But I also learned what is destructive from an emotional approach to music. And I am now in the phase of my life where I really want to share this.”
What is your drive? Why are you doing what you are doing?
“That's a great question. I have a sense of responsibility for what we could do with music. I've seen how a song that I wrote in the garage of my house changed my life and the lives of thousands, maybe millions of people. I mean, music has the power to create a parallel universe for four or five minutes, where people are having a different perspective of their human experience, becoming the spectators of their life. That’s very powerful. When I saw all that power, to create that healing experience in people, I decided that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. It is so fulfilling to do. The healing power of music, that's my drive, my passion. I wake up every day thinking; ‘OK, what I'm going to do, to get a regular person out of their own world and give them this gift of healing, of grace?”
Sounds and feels like a higher purpose?
“I believe I’ve been an old soul since I was a little kid. For instance, I'm a huge fan of Bach's music. At the age of 6, his music literally mesmerized me. Every day I play Preludes and Fugues from Bach. In his music, I found the perfect balance between architecture and emotion and the way the universe is built.”
“I really enjoy this supernatural aspect of creation. A studio session or compositional session, being in the studio, is the closest experience to a spiritual experience.”, he explains, smiling. “You're getting messages and lyrics, and you don't know where they are coming from. It's amazing. And then at the end of a four- or eight-hours session, you have a whole thing. It's almost meant to be. It's so great.”
“It's also great to see that my role models in pop music had a similar approach. For example George Martin with the Beatles, or even Queen. They had the same experience of being in contact with classical music, the architectural approach, the solid education plus the creative, the intuitive part. Because I think that’s what makes pop music timeless.”
With your record label (Art House) you do a lot of artist development. What made you decide to step into education?
“It’s a passion. I really want to share everything I’ve learned. It has been quite hard to get to the point where I am now, and if I can save time and most importantly, talent, I will do that. Because I've seen it with people that started learning the ‘grammar’ in music, they became super-rational, and they lost their spontaneity, their talent. And I think that is irresponsible. I really want to create this place where we can be honest and responsible and create real entertainers.”
“I also think that music education needs to be boutique. For me, it feels irresponsible to graduate hundreds of producers and engineers a year in an industry, where I believe we really have to set the level of the bar higher.”
“You see, as a musician, you have the responsibility to give the best version of yourself. I also think the entertainment industry has the power and the responsibility to provide the best experience to people. Because life should be entertaining. It's just that. I want to do that, and I want to give this new generation of students and artists a deep understanding of why they have to provide that.”
What makes this so important for you?
“I've seen it happen! I’ve been in stadiums where they were singing a song that I wrote, and I felt the DNA of what I was thinking and what I felt when I wrote that song. I felt it changed the lives of people. I saw people singing the song, and it was crazy to see how they are healing themselves. And for you just to be a witness of that, feeling it inside, that’s pure joy. Of course, they didn't know I wrote the song, but it made me so happy to see them jumping and dancing. Or just stopping for a red light and seeing through the rear-view mirror, people in the car behind you, singing one of your songs, that gives a true sense of purpose.”
Do you believe that you've been given a gift?
"Yes. But the gift is not necessarily the musical talent, it’s my sensitivity. I just have a great sense of empathy. That’s it."
There is a video with Marc Anthony where he says that you have the gift of bringing out the best in him. You are not selling something, you're not telling artists what to do. How do you see yourself as a producer, what’s your role?
“I think that performing is the ultimate art of seduction. Not in the sexual aspect but in a broader meaning of the word and me as a producer, I'm the mirror. The moment where they love themselves, I also don't lie to them. I am honest without killing their beauty, and I believe my role as a producer is to create the right atmosphere. A place where they do not feel any form of intimidation, so they can be absolutely the best version of themselves.”
“Everything should be possible because you are dealing with super sensitive people. I am too, so I don't want to say they wrote the wrong word at the wrong moment. It's just timing, and that's something I want to pitch to future producers because that's the essence. What you want to get from the artist is the best version, so they become inspiring. Then they attract people, they become a magnet. It’s a huge act of self loss in order to conspire and create.”
A delicate process?
“Yes, but a beautiful one. Most artists are very sensitive, and they probably had some very rough moments in their lives, and I think that music became this bubble that saved them. The common denominator is trauma. And that's why producing is also a coaching process. When you see the trauma in your life, and then you transform this into beauty, it becomes a healing process. And now that I'm thinking about it, I believe that's actually the role of music.”
“That's why music is so powerful. Because it is a success story. Converting that trauma into something beautiful that you didn’t know existed. And the most interesting part is that you don't have to make it rational to understand it. That’s the beauty of what we do. That's why every great song is telling a story of success, no matter what.”
“Lately, I often listen to the music of Nine Inch Nails. That's the man's (Trent Reznor) heart! That's the perfect example of artistry. Re-living difficult moments in life, from the past or heart memories, converting them into a beautiful piece of art. You also see this in paintings. When you see Dali’s work, it's exactly the same, that passion.”
“That's my coaching and educational approach. I want to get that out, I want to see what is there, the inner dramas, and convert that into a beautiful piece of art. That it gives hope to a lot of people that don't have the opportunity to do it. But they are going to be healed without knowing they're being healed. Which is great. Everybody should make music” he says with a smile."
If someone decides to start a career in music, what advice would you give them?
“The key is patience. I believe it is one of the most demanding careers in the world, sometimes even more than an athlete. I mean, it's patience, because you're constantly going to be tested. And most likely and most of the time, the real success appears only five seconds after you decided to give up.”
“That’s what patience means to me; Never give up and protect your intuition. It is vital and essential for sensitive people to learn how to be solid and how to stay connected to their dreams.”
What made you decide to bring Abbey Road Institute to Miami?
“Oh, it's such a beautiful brand and such a legacy. I mean, it actually represents the respect that I have for music. It's a brand that has always been associated with respect, something I truly stand for too. For music and for entertainment. I now realize it's just a perfect match for what I hope to represent.”
Your experience, Art House Records, the studio and now Abbey Road Institute Miami. It sounds like a perfect combination?
“It is, but it’s a challenge too. To stay relevant in my career as a producer, composer and film scoring composer, and then to open this experience to a very selected group of students to learn this firsthand is a passion of mine. For me, it’s about speaking the language of the sensitive person who you are dealing with and then protecting their magic.”
Thank you so much for this interview, Julio. There is no doubt you will continue fostering a new generation of artists, producers and engineers for years to come.
Learn more about Abbey Road Institute Miami.
Learn more about Julio Reyes Copello
Words by Dennis Beentjes.